University Hospital of North Staffordshire delays parking fee rise over lack of spaces
PLANNED parking charge increases for patients and visitors at Staffordshire's biggest hospital have been suspended – because there are not enough bays for all the cars.
The decision means controversial plans to make blue badge holders pay to park in disabled bays for the first time have also been delayed.
The postponement comes two weeks after the University Hospital of North Staffordshire deferred its attempts to increase charges for most of its 7,000 staff after a workers' revolt.
Now NHS officials will not increase the charges for patients and visitors until October because 200 of the hospital's 1,900 spaces will be lost this summer due to demolition work.
The reopening of dozens of extra beds and increased numbers of patients are also placing a strain on the parking provision.
Hospital spokesman Andrew Ashcroft said: "Following the recent announcement that staff parking charges are to be deferred, we have decided to defer all tariff increases.
"Therefore, the increase for patients and visitors, including those for blue badge holders, will now be implemented in October. The decision again reflects concerns about the availability of parking spaces at the City General while the site is under development."
From October, drivers will have to fork out £3 instead of £2 for a four-hour stay, with blue badge holders charged at the same rate.
It is hoped the number of parking spaces will rise to 2,200 by next year.
Lynn Clarke, aged 30, of Cheadle, who is nine months' pregnant, has been visiting the hospital's maternity department.
She said: "Parking is a bit of a nightmare there. It would have been unfair to put the price up when the number of spaces is going down."
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of pressure group North Staffordshire Healthwatch said: "There should be no parking fee. It is a charge on illness."